Monday, 10 January 2011

Explaining Tongue Tie

Tongue tie, officially known as Ankyloglossia, is one of those developmental 'glitches' that can cause big and life long problems for the person with it and disrupt their ability to breastfeed. The inability to properly latch onto a mother's breast that comes with the condition of Ankyloglossia can make makes breastfeeding, which should be a source of joy and satisfaction, into a nightmare of pain and suffering for the woman. 

All babies should be checked for tongue tie at birth. Midwives and doctors should ensure the baby's tongue can move freely and fully extend in a thrusting movement. If there is any twisting or 'pull back' into a heartshape of the tongue tip, the baby is most likely tongue tied. This brochure shows you how to check and identify if a baby is tongue tied.

Treatment of 'tongue tie' has gone through different 'fashions'. The last few decades have seen a lack of recognition of this problem and when identified, a real reluctance to treat it. This widespread ignorance has caused many oral and developmental problems for the children and breastfeeding 'failure' for women who rightfully, couldn't bear the pain and trauma to their nipples caused by their babies inability to attach themselves to the breast. Treatment has been the source of a much controversy. Some experts advise taking a 'wait and see' approach and delaying any surgical intervention until the child is older. This 'wait and see' approach is associated with speech and normal mouth development disruptions and lactation failure.

Thankfully, due to the work and care of a few dedicated lactation consultants and paediatric doctors, the condition and ensuing problems are increasingly recognised. In the last few years, appropriate correction of the defect is being instituted with excellent results.

This brochure has been produced by a paediatric dentist and demonstrates the various forms of Ankyglossia (tongue tie) - the photos are excellent. The problems this condition can produce long term are given and treatment options are explained.

If any woman has problems with sore and damaged nipples, ensure your midwife or doctor checks your baby's mouth for tongue tie. The brochure also shows you how to check yourself. Sometimes the tongue tie can be 'occult' that is, not obvious when looking, you have to feel under the tongue against the base of it to identify the tethering.

If the link for the brochure doesn't work, look on Dr Kotlow's website for it

Another resource is the excellent milk matters site and this post on tongue tie as the hidden cause of feeding problems.


Denise said...

I have been looking into Tongue tie as we have a few here is an excellent site

Carolyn Hastie said...

Thanks for those links Denise. I note that your site states the surgery can be done from 7 days, but my understanding and experience is that the frenulum can be snipped from birth or when the tongue tie is detected. What's your experience?

Chrissy said...

Hi Carolyn, thanks for all the info on tongue tie. My first son wasn't diagnosed with tongue tie (mild) until he was 3 weeks old. At 48 hours I was offered a nipple shield to assist with breastfeeding. At 6 weeks postpartum, it was found I had 'flat' nipples so the nipple shield assisted in overcoming this. By 10 weeks old we had got rid of the nipple shield. By the time he was 12 months old the tongue tie was no longer, we presume he cut it himself from falling over or something.

I have quite a few friends that have had children with severe tongue tie, but have had no breastfeeding difficulties. Interesting that some still choose to have it cut and others didn't.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Chrissie, some babies tongue-tie tissue is stretchy, so their tongues are fully mobile. That means that breastfeeding is not affected, neither will speech or any other functional tongue/jaw movement. Those tongue-ties do not need to be touched. Glad your son was able to overcome his tongue-tie and you were able to breastfeed. Nipple shields can be fabulous for enabling breastfeeding with flat nipples. Thanks for your comment.

* said...

hm, wasn't able to download the brochure - the page would go to a default 'error' blogger page. is there anywhere else i can get the brochure? thanks.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Hi, hope the link works now, if it doesn't, I've added the author of the brochure, Dr Kotlow's website and you can find it there.